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Lucas Ossendrijver of Lanvin

The designer talks about trainers, contrasts and Alber Elbaz.

Lucas Ossendrijver joined Lanvin in 2005 as head menswear designer, having previously worked for Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme, and has made Lanvin's menswear collections a success both critically and commercially. At the end of June he will be showing his S/S 09 at Paris menswear fashion week.

Dazed Digital: How are preparations for the show coming along?
Lucas Ossendrijver:
We have to order the clothes as we don't have the luxury of an atelier. We ordered them a month ago and now we are now working on accessories. We're still working on knitwear, shoes and bags. When the clothes arrive, we will be doing the styling and the casting.

DD: Can you tell us anything about the new collection?
That brings bad luck [laughs]! For me, our collections are always an evolution, not a revolution. Especially in menswear, it's not very "us" to change radically every season. At the same time it's always a reaction to the last season and you want to try new things or new techniques. All I can say is it will be a departure from the last season.

DD: How do you feel about the growing success of Lanvin?
LO: When I started at Lanvin in 2005, it was just like an experiment and there was no real strategy. I'm very lucky because Alber Elbaz gave me the freedom to dream and to discover things and to try out things. From that point, something started and we never expected it to grow so fast and for it to elicit the reactions.

DD: How do you feel when people call Lanvin "the new Dior Homme" as you previously worked for Hedi Slimane at Dior?
It's very strange because they are two very different labels and completely separate. It's very different at Lanvin. I'm very happy that people want to wear the product and it is the ultimate compliment that people buy it.

DD: Is there an ideal Lanvin man/muse?
When I start a collection, I never really think of one type of Lanvin man. We still have our old customers who have been coming to Lanvin for decades to buy their wardrobe. I'm very happy that they still come to buy Lanvin's classic line. When I'm at the shop, I sometimes see these clients who come in and they might not buy the more "fashion" items but they might buy a pair of trainers or a sweater or a cardigan. Then there's the younger guys who come in and buy trainers, T-shirts and shirts. We're very democratic in that sense and it's meant for everyone. It's not for one specific body type or age.

DD: Are you aware of the fanaticism that surrounds products like the Lanvin high top trainers?
LO: It's a sign that things are changing. Women might go crazy over a bag. For men, maybe it's trainers or shoes. It's just a different product. For us, trainers and bags are like the equivalent of women's jewellery. For men, shoes are an easier way of changing your look. 

DD: Lanvin does not sell matching suits – why is that?
It's a more modern way to dress. I never wear a suit all in one colour; it's always separates. It's nice to have different textures and different colours so that it's always slightly "off". It's more rich and varied. I don't like the suit as a uniform and I can't relate to that. At the same time, though, there's a growing interest in tailoring and in quality. There's nothing nicer than a hand tailored jacket or a made to measure suit. There's an interesting quality to and because we have had so much casualwear, it's nice to dress up without going over the top.  

DD: How has your working relationship with Alber Elbaz changed over the years?
I feel very free and it's very rare in fashion to feel that way. I'm also very thankful for that. We talk about the collections at the beginning of the season to establish an direction. It's more like he's there without actually being there. If I have doubts or questions or when I'm not sure and I can go to him.

It's good because he has a different eye and sometimes he can just say things which makes me goes in a different direction. We are opposites. He's a womenswear designer and I'm a typical menswear designer. The co-operation takes us further and for me it's about team effort. We have a very small team of five and this is an advantage because we control everything from beginning to the end. It feels very natural in the way we work and the way we make the collection. You constantly have to question yourself and it's good to have a reflection from other people.

DD: Do you look at the Lanvin womenswear collections at all for your work?
LO: The reason I came to Lanvin was because I admired the work of Elbaz and everything he has done for Lanvin, as he has established such an identity for the brand, but at the same time, it's a different language for menswear. You can't just take things from womenswear and apply it to men because it won't work. Sometimes we take a fabric or a colour from womenswear and apply it to men because you need contrasts and extremes. That's where the tension comes about and that's when it becomes interesting. You start asking yourself whether it's masculine or feminine and it becomes new.
It's like cooking, you have these ingredients and it's about finding the right balance.

DD: How do you feel about the rising interest in menswear?
I think there's still a lot to be done in menswear. Things are changing but very slowly. To be honest I'm quite surprised that people react so well to what we do, because men buy clothes in a different way from women. A lot of guys are now a bit more open to buying newer things, buying different things. But it's hard to establish a new buying pattern. When a guy finds a great suit, they want the same suit the next season.

DD: Ultimately what do you want to achieve at Lanvin?
The ultimate thing that I want to do is for people to wear my clothes. That's the best compliment. You can do a show and present an image and it can be really extreme and it's something that the press might like. In the end, though, it's all about the clients who buy the clothes. You want to make other people's lives a bit nicer. That's what I see as my role as a designer - to bring a little bit of colour to other people's lives. You want to make them happy and for them to like the product.